Renee wilted into the seat cushion beside Amy on the couch. Amy read her script while making notations in the margins between occasional sips of coffee. She adjusted her feet under her, clothed as she was in her simple flannel loungers and 'Illinois' midriff T-shirt of white.
"Come on. It's a movie!!"
"That's what you said last time. I don't know what you classify as a movie, but sexual situations every five minutes surrounded by a plot that can barely be called that is not what I call a movie."
Renee crossed her arms with a deep breath. "You've been studying that script all morning, Aims. Don't you want to get out and do something?"
Amy set aside her coffee mug onto the felt-bottomed brass coaster on the antique coffee table. "Not until I know I have it down pat. Then, and only then, I might step out to catch the bus to the studio."
Renee sat up. "Can I go?"
Renee sat back again. "You have all the fun," she pouted.
"I can't help that. The rules of the studio prohibit any visitors," Amy said absently as she turned the page of the script. "Apparently Mr. Harrison wants this movie to be top-secret."
"I know, I know. Geez. What a tight ass."
Amy frowned, raising her eyes long enough to look over at her roommate. "He is not a 'tight ass', Renee. He takes his job seriously, is all. Do you have any idea how stressful it is to be Executive Producer of a sci-fi/fantasy film?"
Renee scoffed. "Yeah? Well how hard can it be to smile once in a while?"
Amy arched an eyebrow. "You've been looking at those pictures on the gossip mags again, haven't you?"
Renee looked away, adjusting her crossed arms. "So what if I have?"
Amy sighed, turning her focus back to her script. "I'm not even going to honor this conversation with a comeback. You know how I feel about those columns."
Renee sent Amy a sidelong glance. "Did you know he always has an affair with the heroine?"
Amy's throat tightened, and her eyes lost focus on the page. Then she blinked and purposefully made a note of something nonsensical in the margin.
Renee adjusted her position on the couch, sitting tailor-style to face Amy. "His last girlfriend, Fiona?, was the heroine in his most recent Broadway performance 'Legaia'... or something. Anyway, the only thing was she actually married the guy she'd been engaged to during their whole fling."
Amy turned the page, even though she couldn't remember anything that had happened in the scene. "Renee..." she warned.
"And when he played the phantom in 'Phantom of the Opera'? Guess who played opposite? Vanessa Heron. And guess who got intimately involved during its run? Mr. Harrison and Ms. Heron. Only then Mark Frasier came on the scene fresh from Hollywood and labeled the sexiest man on film and broke them up. I guess action/adventure heroes are more attractive to stars than Broadway names."
"I'm not listening," Amy said in a sing-song voice.
"Fine. Don't listen. Just remember that each and every movie or musical or drama he's been in, he's gotten involved with the heroine only to break it off once the rehearsals end, or the run peeters out, or the lady gets too clingy."
Amy slapped the script closed, finally raising her eyes to meet her roommates' gaze. "So what, Renee?"
Renee gave a one-shoulder shrug. "So, Miss Prude and Morality, I wanted to give you a heads up. He likes his women, sure, but he likes them disposable."
Amy frowned with a flash of temper as she stood. "Don't worry about me, Renee," she snapped. "I've got both feet firmly planted on the ground." She strode to her room and slammed the door closed.
Renee arched an eyebrow. "Sure," she called, "but I know you, Aims. You go for these high-culture English types with their fancy accents and their manners and charm. He'll have you in his sheets in less than a week." Renee smirked when she heard a crash and a slam within Amy's bedroom. "Just go with it. You only live once. Besides, it'll give you something to talk about when you go home."
Amy stormed from her room dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, script in hand, purse over shoulder, scowl on face, and daggers in eyes as they glared at Renee. "I'm going out."
"Kind of figured you would. Chicken. Bock bock bacaw."
Amy slammed the front door shut. "Oooo," she growled as she strode to the elevator. "Gossip columns! Not giving them a bit of privacy or a shadow of a doubt. Just spillage of sop and exaggeration of details we don't need to know!" Amy fumed.
The elevator dinged, the doors opened, and Amy stalked inside to press the button with a little more force than what was necessary. The elevator closed and headed down from the fourth floor. Amy adjusted her hold on the script, glaring down at it while wishing it could be the face of the latest gossip columnist who'd bashed a man that worked hard and didn't get any breaks because of it.
"Ooo," she growled again. "I'd like to ring your neck!" And she gave the script a little shake. Her temper sparked hotter at the remembered comment-- "Between his sheets in a week?!" Amy scoffed.
Amy pressed her lips together, all the while wishing she could have brought herself to slap Renee hard across the face. But Renee had been her friend for years. The elevator dinged and opened its doors, ignoring her continued fumes and rants and raves as she strode forward. She grunted a returned greeting to the desk clerk/security guard and then gave a tight-lipped nod to the doorman as he offered her a genuine "Good afternoon, Miss Burke. Lovely day."
It was a lovely day, sun shining and pigeons flying while dropping their goods on unsuspecting statues and benches and the occasional car.
Amy grabbed her temper before it had a chance to bolt away from her and took in a deep breath. She released it slowly as she acknowledged the lovely day, the smiling doorman, the pretty trees outside her apartment building's front door, and the somewhat peaceful Sunday afternoon. She gathered another breath and then sent the doorman another attempt at a greeting. This time she smiled.
"Yes, it is a lovely day, Oliver. Thank you for reminding me."
"Having a bad day, Miss Burke?" Oliver asked.
Amy grimaced. "A little."
Oliver smiled. "Maybe you should stop by the park for a little R & R. Helps me every time. It's a nice walk, too."
Amy looked down at her script. "I think that's a good idea." She lifted her gaze to meet his. "Is there a coffee shop on the way. I think I need a triple."
Oliver laughed. "Yes, there is. Red tent. Mobile cart. Tell Randy that Ollie sent you. He'll give you a free coffee cake."
Amy smiled. "Thank you, Oliver. I appreciate it."
"Sure thing, Miss Burke. Enjoy your walk."
Amy set off at an easy pace, occasionally taking the time to look at the window dressings and displays in the shop windows on her way. She shook her head with another deep breath. I didn't need to know that. She kicked at a pebble and adjusted her hold on the script. People had faults, Amy knew that, but she didn't believe they should be everyone else's business. Besides, now I'll be suspicious and untrusting, not giving him the chance he needs to be who and what he is. I'll question every little thing he does or says. Amy sighed again. Darn it, Renee. You and those gossip columns... and calling me a prude? Sheesh. That's hitting below the belt. I can't help it if I have certain ideas on things.
Amy wrinkled her nose as she lifted her gaze-- she halted in shock. Sir Garret Harrison was purchasing coffee at the red tented mobile cart that Oliver had told her about. He paid for his coffee and then turned away, looking both ways before hurrying across the street to the park. Amy blinked and began absently gnawing her lip. She tucked a long, stray lock of brunette hair behind her ear before hesitantly moving forward to the mobile cart for her promised triple mocha.
She cleared her throat and dug her coin purse from her little wallet strapped across her. "May I have a triple vanilla mocha. No whipped cream. Whole milk."
"Thank you." Amy paid for the coffee, left a tip, and then stepped slightly away to wait.
Amy continued to gnaw her lip as she looked toward the park while tapping her foot. I was headed that way anyway. Why should I not go just because I saw him head over that way, too? Amy shook her head and turned back to the mobile coffee-cart. Hell be suspicious, thinking Im stalking him or something. Amy wrinkled her nose. It isnt my problem what he thinks. Im trying to get some peace and quiet so that I can study my script and be ready for shooting my scenes.
Amy gave a curt nod, accepted the coffee from the vender while remembering she was supposed to have told him Ollie sent her, and then shrugged it off as she proceeded to the crosswalk to head to the park. She pushed aside all plans and plots and reasons and excuses to tell him in case their paths did cross, and resigned herself to simply enjoying the scenery and the peace and quiethell have you in his sheets in less than a week. Amy frowned and pressed her lips together just as the signal turned to WALK.
Oh for petes sake, Amy murmured as she headed across. She wasnt a wide-eyed, star-struck newbie to the star-studded scene.
Amy adjusted her hand hold on her coffee and her script as she chose a trail into the deeper section of the park. Then, when her arms began complaining that she carried too much, she made her way to the side and set herself down very carefully on the grass. Renee, you did it on purpose. You knew I would dwell on it, thereby ruining my study time and giving you a bit of revenge for ignoring you. Amy pressed her lips together as she nestled her coffee in the lush grass beside her and opened up the script. Renee did things like that all the time, just because she knew she could. It was a mind game she liked to play. Push the right button and see the reactions fly. Shes sick, I tell you. Absolutely sick.
Amy sighed with a slight shake of her head. And I stepped into it with all the grace of an elephant, she mumbled.
Amy looked up at the shocked tone of the question. She blinked, and then she remembered seeing Mr. Harrison come this way. He looked quite normal in his wrinkle-free Dockers and deep red Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, his long white hair neatly combed and occasionally tickled by the very slight breeze. Holding his coffee in one hand and a leather-bound volume of Shakespeares Hamlet made him look anything but a villain.
Amy offered him a smile. Hello, Mr. Harrison. Do you escape here too? Hell have you in his sheets Amy pushed the thought away, hiding it in the corner of her mind and stuffing a box over it.
Mr. Harrison changed his gaze to the leather-bound book without a twinkle in his eye or a twitch to his lips. Escape is a bit dramatic.
Yes, well I can only call the horse by its name, Amy responded, attempting to draw out his sense of humor. I dont blame you at all for trying to hide from everyone and everything. In fact, Im doing a bit of hiding myself. She lifted her coffee with a twitch of her lips. My trusty triple mocha my only conspirator.
To that Mr. Harrison surrendered a slight smile. Ah. Trustworthy friends, our coffee cups and sippy lids.
Amys smile broadened. The idea of Sir Garret Harrison saying sippy lid nearly did her in with laughter. She took a careful sip of the steaming coffee as she watched him examine the leather-bound book. Amy couldnt tell if he wanted to retreat or not. Up to that point, it seemed he stormed off if he needed to be somewhere. Maybe hes waiting for the invitation?
Amy lowered her gaze as she nestled her coffee cup back into the grass. I have grass here, there, and everywhere if youre still looking for a place to enjoy your book. She looked up to catch his gaze. I promise I dont mumble or talk while I study, Amy told him with a small smile.
While the invitation is appreciated, Mr. Harrison said carefully, Im afraid I received a call from the director a moment ago and must return to the set.
Ohh. You want to escape but take the cell phone in case of an emergency. Amy gave a slight nod. Right.
Mr. Harrisons lips twitched again. Yes, well
The duties of an exec are never over, Amy finished for him, and then she wrinkled her nose at him. Dont you feel special?
Mr. Harrison actually chuckled. Again. Thank you for the invitation.
Amy smiled up at him, freeing her coffee from the grass to give him a fellow coffee-lover salute. Youre welcome, Mr. Harrison. Have a pleasant day. And I hope those emergencies settle down to give you a free moment to enjoy Hamlet the way Shakespeare intended.
Thank you, Miss Burke.
Amy smiled her response before lowering her gaze back to her script. When she didnt hear the expected sounds of his Italian leather loafers on the cobble walk, she raised her eyes. Mr. Harrison continued to stand there, but this time he had gone to the chore of balancing his coffee and Hamlet in one hand while dialing a number on his cell phone with the other. Amy arched an eyebrow.
Harrison here. Regarding the item discussed, use your judgment Mr. Harrisons expression darkened to annoyance. If I am required to hold your hand through each and every decision regarding this movie, Max, then I shall find another gentleman to do the job I recall quite clearly what I said the other day thank you, Max. Your question, however, is not within the realm of my attention. Handle it.
Mr. Harrison pushed the appropriate button to disconnect the phone and then tucked the itty-bitty thing into the pocket of his trousers.
Amy, ever the teasing imp, began to softly applaud. Congratulations, Mr. Harrison. You have taken the first step in controlling your own life. What do you plan to do next?
Mr. Harrison stepped forward and sat beside Amy, much to her surprise. Stain my trousers, he said in a tight voice.
Amy leaned slightly back to regard his frowning face with wide-eyed amazement only partially real. Well arent we going all the way in the realm of adventurous irresponsibility?
Mr. Harrison actually positioned himself tailor-style before nestling his coffee cup into the grass in front of him with a curt nod. Then he opened Hamlet to the ribbon-marked page. Dash it all, he remarked sharply, I deserve a moment to breathe.
Amy chuckled and then said yes, you do as she changed her gaze back to her script.
Mr. Harrison replaced the ribbon bookmark within Hamlet with a deliberate action. Amy finished her thought on the script, nearing the ending scene of the first act of the movie, and then changed her gaze to his profile. He is definitely a handsome man.
Miss Burke, he began as he closed the book, I want to apologize for my attitude yesterday. Mr. Harrison moved his startling blue eyes to meet Amys gaze. You have been more than civil, considering.
Amy smiled. I suppose I have, in your field of experience. But my philosophy has always been to let bygones be bygones. Not only that, I shouldnt judge a person until I walk a mile in their shoes. Amy chuckled as she pointed at his Italian-leather loafers. I think I would step right out of yours, so Ill just be content with my size 7 and leave you to your 11?
Mr. Harrison changed his thoughtful expression to his shoes.
When he didnt respond, Amys smile faded. She tilted her head as she watched his profile. Are you okay?
Mr. Harrison looked back to her with a serious expression. Yes. Thank you. He stood to his feet and offered her a hand.
Amy smiled and handed him the script instead of the expected hand. Then she stood of her own accord while gathering her purse and empty coffee cup. She discarded the coffee cup in the available trash, strapped her purse across herself, and then accepted the script. Mr. Harrison looked a little surprised.
Normally I would ask if you wanted to come up for a refill on your coffee, but I dont think you would appreciate my roommates attention, Amy said, still smiling. She has less-than-glorious opinions about you. Amy lifted a hand, turning her head away. Dont bother saying anything. Ive already told her that she shouldnt believe everything she reads in those papers. Ive also told her that you are a busy man who takes his job seriously. Renee knows that if she wants to say anything more, she better do so to a brick wall.
Mr. Harrison slightly chuckled, drawing Amys attention as she lowered her hand. I am quite familiar with negative judgments, Miss Burke. I doubt your roommates opinion shall cause any damage to my ego. Max claims I have enough to spare.
Amy laughed, then she motioned ahead down the trail. Well then, if you dont mind glares and daggers from her, youre more than welcome to stay for dinner. Mr. Harrison didnt move down the trail, so neither did Amy. He did change his gaze down it, though. Mr. Harrison, you dont have to come. Im just doing the neighborly thing and inviting you. I understand if you dont want to accept. After all, you wouldnt want to break your own rule about fraternizing.
No, I suppose I wouldnt, he admitted absently. Mr. Harrison regarded the trail a moment more before changing his gaze to hers. Miss Burke, thank you again for the invitation; both of them.
Amy nodded. Youre welcome, Mr. Harrison. And call me Amy.
Mr. Harrison presented his hand. Amy accepted it this time. He gently gripped it. If you have questions Amy, dont hesitate to ask.
Amy smiled. I wont. Thank you, Mr. Harrison. They released hands. You have a nice evening.
He nodded with a slight twitch to his lips before moving away down the trail. Amy stared after him, still smiling, and hugged the script to her chest. Hes a nice man, when given the chance. Probably has a reason to be defensive. Just look at his life. Women throwing themselves at him, audience demanding his full performance each and every night, no retreat to rediscover who he is Amy shook her head and lowered her gaze to the cobble walk at her feet. Poor guy. He needs a vacation.
Amy took in a deep with a slight rise to her shoulders before stepping forward toward home.
Well its about time, Renee scolded when Amy stepped in the front door. I was beginning to think youd gotten mugged or something.
Serves you right for doing what you did. Amy turned from the door with an Im not talking to you anymore look as she made her way for her bedroom.
Doing what? Telling the truth? Renee asked, hands on hips.
Repeating gossip, Amy chided. She closed the bedroom door behind her.
Oh brother. Renee sat back on the couch and picked up her magazine they didnt have a TV to search through for the interesting tidbits she loved to read. Gossip is based on facts, Aims. Deal with it.
Amy emerged a few minutes later in her flannel loungers and same sweatshirt, novel in hand. Sorry, no deal. Everyone deserves a second chance to be who they are without gory details being embellished just so that a person bored with their own life can have a bit of excitement.
Ugh, Renee complained with a roll of her hazel eyes. Puh-lease.
Amy chuckled as she sat on the other side of the couch. Ill step down from my soap box now, Ren. Sorry.
Renee smacked Amys socked feet with her magazine. Dont worry about it, Aims, she said with a smile. And sorry for stepping over the line. You know me.
Amy opened her book with a smirk. Yep.
Do you have to go to the studio tomorrow?
Nope. Shooting doesnt start for two weeks, but I do need to talk to the director soon about my final scene. Im a little nervous about it.
I know, you cant tell me. Top-secret.
Amy sent Renee a regretful smile. Sorry, Ren.
Renee grimaced, not raising her eyes from the magazine. Dont worry about it. Ill just find out with everyone else. And she sounded really put upon.
Amy chuckled. Ill make it up to you. Promise.
Only if you get me a date with Mark Frasier, but since hes on some top-secret project and youre only a nobody in an itty-bitty role that wont happen.
Amys smile twitched.